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Three things from this past weekend in Atlantic Hockey:

A playoff atmosphere

The Canisius – Robert Morris series this past weekend, a clash between first and second place in Atlantic Hockey as well as the two longest unbeaten streaks in the nation, lived up to its billing.

Both games were low-scoring and went to overtime, with the host Colonials pulling out a 2-1 victory on Friday, and Canisius getting a late goal to force overtime and an eventual 1-1 tie on Saturday.

“It really felt like a playoff game coming into the weekend and I think it played out like a playoff game and the margin of victory was slim,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith after the game on Friday.

If anything, the atmosphere was more intense on Saturday.

“In a playoff atmosphere with high emotions and high intensity, we played hard and stuck to a game plan but just weren’t able to get a winner through despite 45 shots on net,” said Smith. “We learned a lot from this weekend and our freshmen, especially, gained great experience in a wild game.”

“We gave up two goals this weekend and only got three points,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “That tells you how tough this series was.”

The three points enabled Robert Morris to move closer to the regular season title. The Colonials lead (now) second-place Bentley by nine points with three weekends left. RMU is idle next weekend and needs two points in its final four games to clinch first place.

A streak ends; a streak continues

On Friday, Rochester Institute of Technology defeated Niagara 7-3 at Dwyer Arena, putting to an end a winless streak there that extended back to…ever.

The Tigers defeated Mercyhurst in the Division III ECAC West semifinals in 1998 at Dwyer, but lost to the host Purple Eagles in the championship game the next night.

Niagara moved to Division I the next season, and the teams didn’t meet again in Lewiston until 2005 when the Tigers made the move to D-I. Prior to Friday’s game the teams had met a total of 14 times at Dwyer, with the Purps holding a 9-0-5 advantage. That came to an end Friday.

Another streak unfortunately continued for Niagara, which battled back from a 3-1 third-period deficit on Saturday to take a 4-3 lead late in the game at RIT’s Polisseni Center. But the Tigers scored an extra-attacker goal with 30 seconds left to salvage a tie.

That extended NU’s winless streak to 16 games (0-13-3) dating back to Nov. 22.

The Purple Eagles visit Mercyhurst for a pair of games this weekend.

Part-time Joe goes big-time

Joe Vicario has been a student manager for RIT Hockey for five seasons, and has faced way more than his fair share of challenges: 31 surgeries mostly to address complications from a congenital defect called Goldenhar Syndrome, but also including a life-saving procedure to stop the spread of testicular cancer in 2013.

Vicario, known as “Part-time Joe”, a nickname given to him by RIT coach Wayne Wilson because of the unpredictable schedule he keeps, was honored Saturday for his courage and the work he has done as a founder of the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation of Western New York.

The RIT men’s and women’s teams wore and then auctioned off special jerseys and sold T-shirts to raise funds for the foundation.

Saturday’s festivities included a unique ceremonial puck drop that saw Vicario go from referee to player.

Niagara also honored Vicario before the game with Purple Eagle coach Dave Burkholder, a former All-American goaltender for RIT who backstopped the Tigers to the Division II national title in 1983, presented Vicario with a jersey.

Saturday was a reminder that while some things transcend even this sport we cherish, a love of this game brings people together to make good things happen.